Pregnancy is NOT a mental illness

I stumbled upon Yankee Cowgirl’s blog that mentioned Congress is working on the MOTHERS (Mom’s Opportunity to Access Health, Education, Research, and Support for Postpartum Depression) Act which would “strongly encourage pregnant women into mental health programs – that means drugs – to combat even mild depression during or after giving birth.”

She links to a column written by Byron J. Richards on He writes:

The Mothers Act is pending legislation that will indoctrinate hundreds of thousands of mothers into taking dangerous psych drugs.

He goes on to slam Big Pharma about how they control Congress and how mothers don’t need psych drugs for a natural birth process.

The Mothers Act (S. 1375: Mom’s Opportunity to Access Health, Education, Research, and Support for Postpartum Depression Act) has the net affect of reclassifying the natural process of pregnancy and birth as a mental disorder that requires the use of unproven and extremely dangerous psychotropic medications (which can also easily harm the child).

These are some serious accusations. I got pretty riled up myself and decided to see what Congress said in the bill.

Here’s the goal of the MOTHERS Act:

To ensure that new mothers and their families are educated about postpartum depression, screened for symptoms, and provided with essential services, and to increase research at the National Institutes of Health on postpartum depression.

PregnantSounds pretty clear to me. All the Senate wants to do is ensure that new moms are educated about PPD and have access to the services they need in addition to funding research at NIH on the issue. I don’t see all pregnant women being classified as mentally ill anywhere in that. Doesn’t even mention anything about forcing treatment. I decided to take a closer look at Congress’ findings. Here’s my paraphrased synopsis:

  1. PPD affects moms during and after pregnancy.
  2. There are three parts to PPD: baby blues, which are normal; mood
    and anxiety disorders, which are more severe than normal; and
    postpartum psychosis (PPP), which means a momma needs help right away!
  3. PPD’s symptoms are in the DSM. (I kid you not. This is a real Congressional finding.)
  4. PPP includes delusions, hallucinations, and mania among other wacky symptoms most moms don’t experience.
  5. Baby blues is so normal than an estimated 80 percent of moms get
    it. PPD strikes 10-20 percent of new moms. PPP is rare but if you’re
    the lucky 1 of every 1000 new moms, you might get it.
  6. No one knows why moms get PPD but anything that’s overwhelming,
    difficult, sad, or chemically imbalanced can contribute to this
    debilitating disorder.
  7. “Postpartum depression is a treatable disorder if promptly
    diagnosed by a trained provider and attended to with a personalized
    regimen of care including social support, therapy, medication, and when
    necessary hospitalization.” (Verbatim)
  8. Because of the stigma surrounding mental illness, PPD goes untreated or undiagnosed.
  9. Untreated PPD can lead a whole host of unfortunate events including fatality.
  10. Untreated PPD affects the immediate family in a whole host of negative ways.
  11. “This Act shares the goals of the Melanie Blocker-Stokes
    Postpartum Depression Research and Care Act and will help new mothers
    who are battling with postpartum conditions.” (Verbatim)

In the Congressional findings, medication is mentioned only as a form of treating PPD. That’s not directly encouraging new moms to take drugs; it’s encouraging them to seek treatment, whether it be therapy or some other
course. Not every new mom will need therapy, hospitalization, or medication, and this bill is far from attempting to “indoctrinate” moms with psych drugs. Also, the bill only mentions “medication” once. It does not even use the word “drug.”

I thought perhaps the Melanie Blocker-Stokes Act had something about medication or drug indoctrination so I checked that bill out. It’s basically a bill that encourages the NIMH to continue research into all things relating to PPD and PPP.

Finally, the MOTHERS Act seeks to establish grants for further research and set up a research conference about the disorder. This piece of legislation, apart from mentioning medication as a form of treatment (along with therapy
and social support, etc.), mentions nothing about forcing new mothers into treatment that they don’t wish to partake. The point of the act is to educate women about the challenges they could face during and after pregnancy.

Yankee Cowgirl’s and Mr. Richards’ posts are unnecessary scare tactics. Pregnancy is not a mental illness; postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis are. Big Pharma isn’t using Congress (in this bill anyway) to push psychotropic medication on “hundreds of thousands of mothers”; it’s a straightforward bill that overall seeks to promote education about the disorder. Big Pharma does enough shady crap to make mental health patients suspicious. Let’s not add to the stinky pile they create on their own.

(Image from Spirit of Motherhood)

8 thoughts on “Pregnancy is NOT a mental illness

  1. I want to recommend an awesome film. “The Business of Being Born.” It shows how stripping away the natural process of birth—and in the hospital even women who say they want natural are virtually all forced to go unnatural at some point because it’s just more convenient for the doctors.
    In any case it’s an awesome movie that celebrates giving birth and there is all sorts of evidence that if birth were done naturally and all the natural hormones could be released in the woman’s boy as they should be, post partum depression would probably be pretty much a non-issue.
    I realize this might not include women who develop depression before giving birth, but I think it would all but eliminate those who develop it after giving birth.
    We have many many problems in medicine….they are not all in psychiatry.

  2. Gianna,
    I absolutely agree. I plan on going to a birthing center instead of a hospital when I’m pregnant. I don’t want an epidural. Doctors act like it’s a medical procedure when it’s not. It’s something that’s natural and I’d like to keep it that way.

  3. Thanks for your insightful post! I’m personally really irriated at all the negative hype out there about this much-needed bill, all by people who obviously haven’t taken the time and care to actually read and understand it like you have. They’re turning it into their own anti-drug agenda, when it really has nothing to do with it.
    I think your blog is great, by the way — I just stumbled on it. Great job!

  4. I’m sure it’s an opportunity for them but I think these people blew pharma’s involvement out of proportion. It’s an opportunity for big pharma but saying that the legislation FORCES drugs on pregnant women is incorrect and misleading. There’s no reason to keep new moms from seeking treatment for these disorders by using these scare tactics.

  5. According to the Dietary Supplement Information Bureau page on pregnancy & PPD support ( ), women can be taking supplements rich in multiple vitamins and minerals & these nutrients promote a healthy state of mind during and after a pregnancy. I’m not stating that this is a cure for PPD, or guarateeing that it will be as affective as medications will be in actually treating PPD. However, such nutrients can aid in the recovery process and, if taken ahead of time, can lessen the affects of PPD.

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